How Big Should the First Printing Be?

May 2006

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PMA members who responded to a
blast about first print runs were—as you’ll see—generally in
agreement about two things: it’s smart to start small, and there’s no surefire
way to determine the best number, even for second and later printings.
Definitions of “small” vary, though, and so do the factors that publishers
recommend taking into account when deciding how many copies of a book to print.
As usual, responses represented a wealth of experience. Highlights appear here



Split Runs Make Sense


We usually do simultaneous
hardcover/paperback runs to spread the fixed costs. But we also try to factor
in who our audience will be—trade, educational, etc. When we balance the
two, we’re usually led down a fairly good path.


For example, when we published Songs for America’s
Children, we printed 2,000 hardcover and 5,000 paperback to
start. We knew people would want to support this book because it was 100
percent for charity in the aftermath of September 11, and we also knew that
shelling out for a hardcover is not always easy. Giving people the chance to
participate was important to us. We have sold almost all 7,000 in three and a
half years, and more or less proportionately in terms of format.

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